Reduce Your Holiday Stress

December 5, 2011 Carolyn McManus, PT, MS, MA

The holiday season generally puts increased demands on everyone. How do you have less stress and more fun during the holidays? Here are 8 ways to reduce your stress this holiday season.

1. Make the holidays about presence not presents. Avoid getting caught in the message that expensive gifts are a sign of love. Remember, your undivided attention and caring presence is your greatest gift to your loved ones. Create a memorable holiday by spending time with the people you care about. Never underestimate or diminish the lasting gift of your heart’s love.

2. Define what is important to you this holiday season. Unrealistic and high expectations promoted by advertisers can undermine the possibilities for happiness during the holidays. Your relationships, parties, dinners and gifts may never measure up to the perfection portrayed by the media. So, be realistic and make your holidays uniquely your own. Identify what you truly value during the holidays and create a celebration around what matters most to you. Avoid judging your holiday based on a magazine image.

3. Take care of yourself one day at a time. Drink plenty of water. Start a holiday tradition of walking with a friend or family member or participate in some other form of regular exercise. Deep breathe during your day and especially when you feel rushed or stressed. Listen to relaxing music. Avoid overdoing the sweets and alcohol. Keep healthy snacks, like fruit or nuts, nearby.

4. Rest in order to enjoy. If you are going shopping or attending holiday events that you know will tire you, make time for a nap or get to bed a little early. If you are doing added cooking and cleaning, remember to take extra time to rest and relax. If you are tired, you are not going to enjoy even pleasurable activities.

5. Pace yourself and delegate whenever possible. Make a conscious choice about the number of and which holiday activities you want to participate in. Trying to “do it all” can be exhausting. Be willing to say “no” and also share the shopping, cooking, cleaning, and added responsibilities with others whenever you can. Remember less can be more!

6. Norman Rockwell moments mostly happen in paintings. The vast majority of families are not like a Rockwell painting. Many families live with personal conflicts, disappointments, unresolved grievances and losses that can become painfully amplified during the holidays. Our invitation is to love the mess and or at least accept that life will never perfect. Set aside differences and grievances for another time. Make the effort to see the good in everyone and find compassion for those who may be suffering.

7. Feel what you feel. There is an overwhelming emphasis on having “happy” holidays. Yet during the holidays it is normal to feel sadness or grief, especially if you have lost a loved one or have difficult family circumstances. Be especially kind to yourself and accept your feelings. Avoid expecting yourself to “feel happy” when you feel sad. Seek out the support and comfort of family, a friend or a professional if needed.

8. Enjoy the journey. So often people put all of their attention on one day or one event and miss the little things that happen along the way that can contribute to happiness. We can set ourselves up for a big disappointment if the event does not go as we planned. Enjoy and appreciate the ordinary and special in each day. There is no gift like the present. Remember, life happens in the present moment and we have only the present moment to experience life and share our love.

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